Most of us have had at least one vivid dream that stays with us for years. Maybe a dream encouraged or warned you against a big decision. Perhaps you’ve had the same recurring dream pop up at different points in your life. Are these dreams trying to tell you something? Most likely, yes.

Our dreams offer important messages from our subconscious, says Megan Mary, a Dream analyst and founder of Women’s Dream Analysis, which offers virtual dream interpretation sessions, dream analysis information and tips. “Our dreams hold deep meanings for our lives that if we listen, we can harness.”

Whether you’re trying to navigate a crossroads, make sense of recurring dreams or change an unhealthy pattern, keeping a dream journal can provide insight and answers.

Benefits of Keeping a Dream Journal

A dream journal is a daily record of what you dream each night. In the journal, you record your dreams’ details, settings and emotions. You may also write down what’s happening your waking life at the time for context.

From improving dream recall to getting in touch with your creative side, keeping a dream journal can benefit your life in multiple ways.


Boost Dream Recall

“With consistent practice, keeping a dream journal enhances dream recall greatly by training your conscious brain to remember,” Mary says.

To remember dreams, Mary recommends keeping your eyes closed when you wake up. Let your mind be still. Then think backwards, as if you’ve lost your train of thought and are grasping for what you were going to say. Slowly, the details and images from your dream will emerge.


Inspire Creativity

Are you seeking inspiration? Suffering from writer’s block? Looking for direction on writing a song or book or starting a new business? Recording your dreams could be the key to tapping into your creative potential. You wouldn’t be the first to find inspiration in a dream.

Mary Shelly got the idea for her short story “Frankenstein” from a nightmare she had after a night of swapping ghost stories with friends. The Spanish painter Salvador Dali painted surreal images from his dreams. Paul McCartney wrote the song “Yesterday” a few months after waking up with only the melody in his head.

“Our dreams are stories that hold hidden messages within their metaphor,” Mary says. “We can harness our dream language and use the stories to inspire creative projects.”


Shed Light on Recurring Patterns

Do you keep dreaming the same dream with a similar theme? Dreams with repeating patterns—situations, environments, people, actions, symbols and emotions—are trying to send a message. And if we’re not grasping that message, the dreams will keep coming.

If you’re unhappy with your job and keep dreaming you’re in jail, maybe it’s time to switch workplaces. Similarly, if you regularly dream you discover a hidden room (or rooms) in your home, that could be a nudge towards discovering new parts of yourself or untapped creativity.

“If we can recognize, unpack and integrate the dream message into our waking life, we can gain useful insight and achieve transformative change,” Mary says.


Gain Insight

Consistently recording your dreams can reveal ways to improve your life and relationships. That includes the relationship you have with yourself.

“Self-awareness, wholeness, direction, purpose and support are all waiting to be unlocked,” Mary says. “We can gain self-confidence, self-reflection, personal growth, self-discovery and often spiritual awakening as we begin to align our lives with the inner guidance of our higher self.”


Understand Your Unique Dream Symbols

If a snake crosses your path in a dream, it’s tempting to look up what snakes in dreams symbolize. But you’re unlikely to get accurate answers from online dream dictionaries. That’s because they don’t consider the context of your life.

For example, if your dream takes place in a corporate setting, that symbol may represent ambition for you. For someone else, a corporate environment might symbolize others having too much input on how you live your life.

“The circumstances matter, the emotions matter, the people matter, the actions matter,” Mary says. “Taking a symbol out of context drains the dream of the symbolic significance it could offer.”

How to Keep a Dream Journal

Keep a dream journal or a dream app on your phone beside the bed. That way, you can record dreams as soon as you awake.

Bookstore dream journals typically offer guidance, tips and prompts for recalling and interpreting dreams. But you can also record your dreams in a simple spiral notebook. Or you may prefer speaking into a dream recording app such as Dream Catcher. Many dream apps categorize dreams and identify recurring themes, patterns and emotions.

Some people find that writing dream details in longhand is better for recall and interpretation than recording them in an app.

To draw out associations and hidden meanings of your dream symbols, ask questions such as:

  • What does this dream and symbol remind me of?
  • Who does this dream and symbol remind me of?
  • What situations in my life are similar to this scenario?
  • What emotions and thoughts were going on in my life during the period and/or setting in the dream?

“By analyzing the dream story and mirroring it to your waking life, you can transfer the symbolism out of your subconscious into your conscious, so you can incorporate the messages into your life,” Mary says.

Don’t try to analyze your dreams while recording them. You can review them later on, or just prior to going to sleep the following night.

dreams and potential meanings

Dream On

Once you commit to recording your dreams in a journal or app, try saying affirmations before bed to boost dream recall.

“I will remember my dreams when I wake up” or “I will remember my dreams tonight” are good starters. You may want to customize your affirmations to fit with your goals.

Before you know it, you’ll be an old hand at analyzing your dreams. Then let your dream symbols, metaphors and messages work their way from your subconscious into your conscious mind to change or improve your life.

Has your life benefited by keeping a dream journal? Did you had a vivid dream years ago that you still remember clearly? Tell us about your experience in the comments to inspire other readers!